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Rethinking the countryside

David Allen, 22 January 1987

The History of the Countryside 
by Oliver Rackham.
Dent, 445 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 460 04449 4
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Gilbert WhiteA Biography of the Author of the ‘Natural History of Selborne’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Century, 239 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 0 7126 1232 7
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The Journals of Gilbert White 1751-1773: Vol. 1 
edited by Francesca Greenoak.
Century, 531 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7126 1294 7
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An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses 1785-1985 
by J.K. Aronson.
Oxford, 399 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 19 261501 7
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The Oxford Dictionary of Natural History 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Oxford, 688 pp., £20, January 1986, 0 19 217720 6
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... letters about its natural history published in 1788 by its devoted, life-long inhabitant, the Rev. Gilbert White. Editions of that classic have by now become legion. Just as all leading actors have to play Hamlet at some time in their career, so it almost seems that every well-known figure on the natural history scene is cajoled sooner or later into ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Erratic Weather, 11 April 2013

... with the weather in other ways, though they borrow from the painter’s repertoire. In 1784 Gilbert White wrote of a freezing, clear December day that ‘the air was full of icy spiculae, floating in all directions, like atoms in a sun-beam let into a dark room.’ The Farnham diarist George Sturt recorded the end of a winter’s day in Victorian ...

D.H. Lawrence and Gilbert Noon

Michael Black, 4 October 1984

... in which early scenes take place is the Woodhouse of The Lost Girl, and is based on Eastwood. Gilbert Noon’s father has a small business and some money, so does not share Lawrence’s family background. Like the gamekeeper Annable in The White Peacock, Noon has been to Cambridge and done well, but has chosen not to go ...

The Exploding Harpoon

Kathleen Jamie: Whales, 8 August 2013

The Sea Inside 
by Philip Hoare.
Fourth Estate, 374 pp., £18.99, June 2013, 978 0 00 741211 2
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... are well trodden. Barely a ‘nature book’ is published today without homage to J.A. Baker, or Gilbert White, or stern collectors like the 18th-century surgeon John Hunter, who dissected everything, including any hapless whale that wandered into the Thames. Much is fresh, though. When we reach New Zealand, the discussion turns to the relationship ...

Keeping warm

Penelope Fitzgerald, 30 December 1982

Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner 
Chatto, 311 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 7011 2603 5Show More
The Portrait of a Tortoise 
by Gilbert White and Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Virago, 63 pp., £3.50, October 1981, 0 86068 218 8
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Sylvia Townsend Warner: Collected Poems 
edited by Claire Harman.
Carcanet, 290 pp., £9.95, July 1982, 0 85635 339 6
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Scenes of Childhood and Other Stories 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Chatto, 177 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 7011 2516 0
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... who had never seen either. All records of passing time were precious to STW, from Proust to Gilbert White’s notes on his tortoise. ‘Continuity,’ she said, ‘it is that which we cannot write down, it is that which we cannot compass, record or control ... An old teapot, used daily, can tell me more of my past than anything I recorded of ...

How terribly kind

Edmund White: Gilbert and George, 1 July 1999

Gilbert & George: A Portrait 
by Daniel Farson.
HarperCollins, 240 pp., £19.99, March 1999, 0 00 255857 2
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... for favours, careful to keep track when it was his turn to buy drinks (which he often did). Gilbert and George, by contrast, are utterly stylised: they speak in relays, move like robots and strongly hint that there is no within within. This book, left incomplete at the time of Farson’s death and tidied up by Robert Violette, is touching and ...

The Method of Drifting

Ian Patterson: John Craske, 10 September 2015

Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske 
by Julia Blackburn.
Cape, 344 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 224 09776 5
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... book: among other things, we pick up information about the Glandford Shell Museum, the Little Auk, Gilbert White, sea fishing, the Elephant Man, Edwardian Sheringham, Valentine Ackland and Sylvia Townsend Warner, embroidery technique, Edward Meyerstein, Walt Disney, the Norfolk Giant, the pituitary gland, diabetes, MI5, and Einstein, who stayed at a (not ...

Wolfing it

Angela Carter, 23 July 1987

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia 
by Patience Gray.
Prospect, 374 pp., £17.50, November 1986, 0 907325 30 0
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A Table in Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France 
collected and illustrated by Leslie Forbes.
Webb and Bower/Joseph, 160 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 86350 130 3
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The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin 
by Alison Armstrong, foreword by Anthony Burgess.
Station Hill Press, 252 pp., $18.95, December 1986, 0 930794 85 0
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... Patience Gray, cookery is what the open road was to Cobbett or the natural history of Selbourne to Gilbert White. There is, however, a difference: these are women to whom food is not an end in itself but a way of opening up the world. And, indeed, they are all women: this is, at the highest level, a female form. It is unique to Saxon culture, to my ...

Toss the monkey wrench

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood’s risky poems, 19 May 2005

Collected Poems 
by Lee Harwood.
Shearsman, 522 pp., £17.95, May 2004, 9780907562405
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... no apparent connection to what has preceded them or comes after. Natural history writers such as Gilbert White are of particular importance to Harwood, whose territory ranges freely from cities and dream-like landscapes to the South Downs of Sussex and the mountains of North Wales, places often treated in a straightforward, naturalistic ...

Fifteen years on

Elaine Showalter, 20 October 1994

No Man’s Land. Vol. III: Letters from the Front 
by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.
Yale, 476 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 300 05631 1
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... published their monumental study of 19th-century women writers, The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert, poet and professor at the University of California at Davis, and Susan Gubar, professor at Indiana University, planned a sequel: a feminist history of women’s writing in the 20th century. At first, they expected to complete it in just a few years, but ...

They roared with laughter

Amber Medland: Nella Larsen, 6 May 2021

Passing 
by Nella Larsen.
Macmillan, 160 pp., £10.99, June 2020, 978 1 5290 4028 9
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... she was passing in Harlem. The heroines of her novels are loners, alienated from both Black and white communities, but forced to masquerade as belonging to one or the other. In Quicksand (1928), Helga Crane, the daughter of a white working-class mother and a West Indian father, must pass as Black to enter Harlem ...

Visitors! Danger!

Lorraine Daston: Charles Darwin, 8 May 2003

Charles Darwin. Vol. II: The Power of Place 
by Janet Browne.
Cape, 591 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 224 04212 2
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... of complicity in scientific racism and sexism for having asserted that inequalities between white and black and between men and women were the ineradicable outcome of nature rather than the insidious work of culture. A new book on avowedly Darwinian approaches to psychology, linguistics or literary theory can still ignite a bonfire of partisan reviews ...

Diary

Jeremy Harding: Ash Dieback, 6 December 2012

... deformity (‘ruptured children’). Evelyn tells us this, and in The Natural History of Selborne Gilbert White repeats it, describing the procedure in detail: if the gash in the tree healed, so would the infant. White also talks about a ‘shrew ash’ in the parish, which was used to cure lameness in livestock. If a ...

Churchill has nothing to hide

Paul Addison, 7 May 1987

Road to Victory: Winston Churchill 1941-1945 
by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann, 1417 pp., £20, September 1986, 0 434 29186 2
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... The latest volume of Martin Gilbert’s Churchill biography is the fifth he has published since taking up the task in 1968. This time he accompanies Churchill on the long march from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour to VE Day. The book has all the strengths and weaknesses of its predecessors. It is a superbly researched chronicle, almost wholly devoid of explicit historical interpretation ...

Where the Apples Come From

T.C. Smout: What Makes an Oak Tree Grow, 29 November 2007

Woodlands 
by Oliver Rackham.
Collins, 609 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 00 720243 1
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Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees 
by Richard Mabey.
Chatto, 289 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 1 85619 733 5
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Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 
by Roger Deakin.
Hamish Hamilton, 391 pp., £20, May 2007, 978 0 241 14184 7
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The Wild Trees: What if the Last Wilderness Is above Our Heads? 
by Richard Preston.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 1 84614 023 5
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... a thousand years (except in a few references to the Normans), but about four hundred. He credits Gilbert White, writing in the late 18th century, with being one of the first writers to praise the loveliness of trees. This won’t do. John Evelyn, a century before, had spoken of beeches making ‘spreading trees and noble shades with their ...

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